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Back To School TipsWarning - this news article expired on 2015-10-01. Information may no longer be accurate or applicable

As the start of the new school year nears, children are returning to school in force and that means we all have a responsibility to be more watchful on the roads.  This is particularly important at times of day when they are more likely to be outside of school, including when school begins, lunchtime and after school.

Safe Kids Canada, reports that pedestrian injury is the third highest cause of injury related death among Canadian children.  Driving defensively and observing the rules of the road will help ensure everyone remains safe.

In addition, driving infractions committed within a school zone can significantly impact you’re driving record.  Offences can include speeding in a community safety zone and improperly passing a school bus.

Here are some important safety rules to keep in mind when driving on or around school property:

  1. Always stop for a school bus when signals are flashing.  Children have a limited sense of danger and are often excited and energetic when getting on or off a school bus.  Watch out for children who may dart out from between stopped school buses or parked cars.  Don’t obstruct school bus loading zones and be patient while children get on and off the bus.
  2. Observe the posted speed limits.  It is important to slow down as you approach a school/community safety zone and watch for children who may run out into harm’s way.  Travelling at a slower speed provides drivers with the time to stop safely in case there are children who cross the road unexpectedly.  Respect the school’s posted pick up and drop off areas to avoid creating unnecessary traffic congestion and unsafe conditions.  This includes no parking and no stopping zones.
  3. Obey the school crossing guard at all times.   Whether you think they are right or not, obey crossing guards at all times.  Children expect that crossing guards will only allow them to cross if the situation is safe, so disregarding a crossing guard’s instructions can have serious consequences.
  4. Plan ahead and be alert.  Driving routes with less traffic in the summer months may now face congestion, so give yourself extra time to get to your destination.  Take your time and don’t rush, especially in school zones.  Look for children especially near or around crosswalks and intersections.  Be prepared to stop at all times.
  5. Pedestrian Visibility.  Dress to be seen.  Wear light or brightly coloured clothing or reflective material.  In dark or bad weather, wear reflective material on clothes, coats and backpacks so you are more visible to drivers. Stop, look in all directions and listen for traffic before crossing safely when the road is clear.  It is very important to remove your headphones, put away your phone, IPod or Mp3 player or other gadgets when crossing a street.  Focus your full attention on the road so you can see, hear, and respond safely.
  6. Expect the unexpected.  Children can be unpredictable and may run out into traffic at any time.  Watch carefully as you approach a school zone and be prepared for children to step on the road unexpectedly.
  7. Teach your children the rules of traffic safety and school bus etiquette.  Children should stay well away from any streets and the school parking lot while they are at school.  Crossing the street only at designated cross walks, under the supervision of an adult (ideally a crossing guard), is a key to reduce the likelihood of getting hit.  Be a good role model for your children by following the same rules that you would like them to follow.  This helps reinforce the safety rules in your son or daughter’s mind

If your child takes a school bus, teach them to respect the school bus driver.They should remain seated at all times while on the bus and refrain from distracting conduct, such as throwing things or yelling.Always walk, don’t run when getting on or off the bus.

Back to school means more children walking and biking on our roads.  Younger children often have limited experience with traffic and lack the skills to negotiate traffic safely.  Motorists need to take special care while driving.  Help our children walk safely to school by following the above safety tips.